Perhaps you knew it as a place to cool off, use the bathroom or grab some free wi-fi. You may have passed through it on your way to an office in the building known variously as 1560 Broadway, 165 West 46th Street, or the Equity Building, for which it has been a lobby while construction shut down the regular side street entrance. I’m referring to the Times Square Visitors Center, which closed its doors suddenly three weeks ago.
In recent years, it has hosted meetings and events, allowed tourists a close up look at one of the Waterford crystal New Year’s Eve balls, and had a small exhibition of Broadway memorabilia. But if you looked beyond that, you could see the vestiges of the intimate Embassy Theatre, a movie house which opened in the pre-sound era of 1925, a bit ahead of many of the grand movie palaces that were about to proliferate. Landmarked in 1987, it was the smallest of the more than 300 theatres designed by Arthur Lamb. Of particular note is that it was built as a high-end theatre for women, with an all-female staff.
Throughout its days as the Visitors Center, from 1998 to 2014, its exquisite details remained intact, if you looked beyond the tourism information booth, the endlessly replayed newsreel highlights clips, the faux peep show and the glowing ball in the center of the space. Given its landmark status, these features should remain preserved, even as the space is converted, reportedly, into a retail opportunity of some kind. Just in case some of the features are protected but obscured in the space’s newest incarnation, here’s a small selection of photos from this lovely gem, taken just after it was closed to the general public and sat in semi-darkness, while those of us who worked above passed through it for a few more days.
All photos copyright Howard Sherman